WE are delighted that County Durham has made it onto the long list of eight contenders for the 2025 City of Culture bid.

As we reported yesterday, there were 20 entrants which have now been whittled down to eight. There was a lot of box ticking involved in the whittling – amazingly, and fairly, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales all got one entry onto the list along with all four corners of England – but those who have survived are to get £40,000 from the Government to work their bids up.

This is where the contest gets really useful. The money can be used to shine a light on many of the brilliant cultural things already occurring and then it can help work out how the offer can be improved.

Durham’s themes are “illuminate, innovate and congregate”, and the county is full of so many contrasts – from cathedral to mines; from coast to dale – it must stand a chance. There are extraordinary things happening at Bishop Auckland around Kynren and Auckland Castle that deserve national attention and, of course, there’s the bicentenary of the Stockton & Darlington Railway would should be a global crowd-puller in 2025 in its own right.

We look forward to getting behind the county as it develops its strategy for the next stage of the competition.